Review: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
OverviewSystem(s): PC, Xbox 360
Things We Liked:Deeply philosophical plot | Amazing soundtrack
Things We Hated:Some gameplay elements are gimmicky
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the newest edition to the Deus Ex franchise, one that has been dormant for the past eight years. So does this newest entry bring the franchise back with success or failure? Also, what does that quote above have to do with anything? Find out the answer to that and more [...]
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the newest edition to the Deus Ex franchise, one that has been dormant for the past eight years. So does this newest entry bring the franchise back with success or failure? Also, what does that quote above have to do with anything? Find out the answer to that and more after the jump.
For those not familiar with the series, the first Deus Ex came out back in 2000 and was produced by Ion Storm. It was one of the first games to truly explore a steampunk world reminiscent of Ghost in the Shell, and it was a huge success. It earned Game of the Year by almost a dozen publications and went on to sell over one million copies. It would join games like Half-Life in a new league of thought-provoking First Person Shooters. The sequel, while not garnering as high reviews, went on to sell over a million copies as well.
So now we have another entry, this time developed by Eidos Montreal, and expectations are high. Well, have no fear because while Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a lot of things, it certainly is not bad.
Human Revolution takes place in the year 2027, twenty-five years before the first Deus Ex, and humanity is just starting to reach the pinnacle of Augmentation research. You take control of Adam Jensen (voiced by Elias Toufexis), a private security officer for the tech company Sarif Industries. Things get complicated when the company is raided by professional mercenaries who slay a number of scientists, including your girlfriend, Dr. Megan Reed (voiced by Michelle Boback). You are ambushed by the mercs and are beaten and shot, presumably left for dead.
David Serif (voiced by Stephen Shellen), the head of his namesake company Sarif Industries, spares no expensive in saving your life in giving you a biomechanical overhaul that would make the Six Million Dollar Man jealous. Armed with cutting edge augmentations, you set off to find who is responsible for the deaths of so many people and step right into a global conspiracy.
Human Revolution’s story is a finely crafted conspiracy thriller that will have you going from Detroit to Shanghai and even to Montreal. Its ability to weave the story into every aspect is one of its greatest and weakest points. From the opening credits, which show Jensen’s surgeries (while his mind goes over the thoughts of his dead girlfriend), you realize that this game is going to be an experience. This is truly one of those games where “you get what you put in”. While the main storyline and cutscenes will give you the overview of the story, you will miss out on many of the finer points if you don’t investigate. And ultimately how you investigate depends on what your choice of augments are at any point in the game.
Human Revolution’s Augment System gives you the ability to add additional features and skills to yourself. From being able to punch through walls to better hacking abilities, the augmentation tree is deep. Each skill set has anywhere from three to ten nodes. The first node in a skill set will cost you two Praxis Points, with following ones only costing one Praxis Point. Praxis Points can be gained from finding Praxis Kits throughout the world or by leveling up through experience points.
However, gaining XP is not a linear thing in which killing Enemy A will give you X amount of experience. No, gaining XP in Human Revolution is far more complicated and diabolical. Simply shooting an enemy will only net you 10XP, which would be fine if it didn’t take upwards of 6000XP to level. However, if you kill an enemy with a headshot, you get a bonus XP reward called Marksmen, which nets you an extra 10XP. However, if you’re merciful and just knock an opponent out with a non lethal weapon, you get 20XP. If you use a takedown, that earns you an extra 20XP. Mix and match those and you can net a decent amount of XP per kill.
Human Revolution is all about choice, and that includes how you deal with enemies. A number of actions in the game requires energy, of which you start off with two bars. The first things you can do with energy are Takedowns. When you approach an enemy you are prompted to tap or hold the B button. Tapping it will do a non-lethal knockdown in which you are treated to a little cutscene of Jensen knocking the crap out of the enemy. If you hold down the B button, you will do a lethal knockdown which will end in the death of the enemy. So why the difference, you ask? Because unbeknownst to many, Human Revolution is a stealth game in disguise.
If you are expecting to be able to blast your way through this game, you are sorely mistaken. Enemies will cut you down with just a few rounds early in the game. Even after maxing out the Dermal Armor skill set you can still be cut to ribbons if two more enemies lay out some gunfire at you. This means that you always have to be careful of your surroundings and treat the game more like Metal Gear Solid. At first I had a very tough time accepting this as I am not a big fan of the stealth genre. However, this is where the true beauty of the game comes into play.
With every mission you take, be it a sidequest or main storyline, you have choices. You choose how to approach the mission, not just in a “go in guns blazing or sneak in” monochrome choice, but deeper than that. For instance, in an early mission you are faced with having to break into the police station morgue to gather some evidence. If you just walk into the police station, you will be stopped shortly after the entrance, but if you choose to ignore the officer’s request, alarms will sound and the full force of the station will descend upon you. Or you can go around the station and, providing you have the increased jump skill, simply jump over the gate and climb up the fire escape. Or you can go down through a manhole cover a block or so away, making your way through the sewers. From there you can find a backdoor to the morgue that you can hack, providing you have at least level 3 hacking. Or you can go up through another manhole cover that will take you to the same fire escape that you needed increased jump to get to. OR you can try to talk to the desk clerk and convince him with words to let you in. OR, if you have the social augment, you can release pheromones and with the right choice of words force him to let you in.
And those are just the choices you make to GET IN THE BUILDING. Once inside of it, there are even more options. Do you crawl through vents from office to office, ducking and weaving toward the morgue? Do you go into the chief’s office and hack the security system to turn off the cameras? Do you avoid the officers? Do you knock them out? Do you kill them? The game offers you a multitude of options all while dangling one piece of fruit in front of you: experience points. If you make it through a mission without being seen, you can earn the ghost bonus of 500XP. If you make through without setting off any alarms, you earn Smooth Operator which is another 250XP. Find a hidden path using a vent? Well that earns you Traveler which is 100XP. Then add the fact that every computer or terminal you hack is worth 25XP or more and you have a TON of choices to make.
All this brings me back to my point about the story: the choices you make in your missions will determine how much information you find out about the world. Hacking into a computer gives you the ability to read the emails from that computer, which usually give you more backstory on the characters you’re getting involved with. While some of these emails will be referenced in the missions, some of them are just for you (the player) to know. The problem, however, is what augments you have at any given time. If one of the computers with some backstory requires level 3 hacking and you only have level 2, well then you missed it. In most cases you can go back later on in the game to access that computer, but any if it is a main mission, you can’t. However, there is no “correct” augmentation path. The game gives you so many paths of attack that you will almost always have one path that you can’t follow. But you will always gain the greatest rewards by stealthing through an area and doing non-lethal takedowns.
However, you always have to remember that the world is persistent. If you stealth through an entire area and don’t take down any guards, they will still be there if you have to go back later. If you clear out an area, they will still be down for almost the entirety of the game. I was constantly coming back to areas with dead bodies from a failed stealth attempt (like I said, I’m not too great with the whole sneaky-sneaky thing).
The game never breaks its sense of immersion either. You can shot anyone. ANYONE. If you decided at the beginning you hate your boss, you can simply shoot and kill him. However, security will swarm you and you will be unable to continue with the game, but the choice is there. The graphics are stunning; the look of this futuristic world is amazing. From the chaotic look of Detroit to the double-decker city of Shanghai, each locale takes what you know and changes it slightly. The game does have some technical issues, though; I did experience some slow-down in areas. The loading times are crazy, with some loads being as long as ten seconds. But none of those problems were enough to detract me from what was important.
Beyond the augments, weapons, and choices is the story of Human Revolution. It does a good job of weaving an epic tale of conspiracy, control, and morals without ever being preachy. While Jensen sometimes seems one-dimensional, he often is just playing the normal “everyday man”. He never went looking for a conspiracy, as he states many times in the game, “[he] didn’t ask for any of this”. He’s the type of reluctant hero I find fun to play. He never complains or whines about what happened to him. You can choose to have him converse with NPC’s, but in the main story he never does. He is a man caught in a fight between mega corporations and a shadow organization. While at times you think the game has “The One” syndrome, by the end it does a great job in showing that it was all just part of a grander plan. The story works in a way that some many lately haven’t. By the time you finish the game, the Einstein quote above will make sense, and hopefully will be something you think about. Additionally, the game has four different endings, each one hinging around a moral choice. While some might find the endings lacking, I found it did the story and overall tone of the game justice. Either way, watch through the credits for a scene that will excite anyone who’s played the first Deus Ex.
Something that often gets overlooked in a lot of games is the score. Well, in a lot of games except this one. The music in Human Revolution is among some of the best I’ve ever heard. The electronic score perfectly fights in with the cool futuristic look of the future Detroit; it reminded me a bit of a mix between Mass Effect and Blade Runner, two soundtracks which I listen to excessively. It flows with where and what you’re doing in the game. For example, the music changes when you start hacking and then speeds up if you’re alerted while hacking. The soundtrack to Human Revolution is a must-have when it’s released.
Deus Ex is a massively massive game with a number of optional and hidden sidequests. I finished the game in about sixty hours and I still missed some sidequests. Those who explore the game or anyone adventurous enough to go for the Pacifist or Foxiest achievements will certainly find even more hours of gameplay. However, this game was meant to explored, so do yourself a favor and don’t rush through.
Human Revolution had big shoes to fill, not just in the Deus Ex franchise, but in the RPG genre. Not only has it filled those shoes, but it deserves a spot with games like Mass Effect and Half-Life. If you can get past the fact that stealth is a major part of the game, I think you’ll find that Human Revolution has a lot to offer. With a compelling storyline, multiple ways to complete missions, a deep augmentation system, an amazing soundtrack, customizable weapons, and multiple endings, there’s something here for every gamer.